Tuesday, October 28, 2008

33rd Marine Corps Marathon: October 26, 2008

Race day begins with my alarm going off at 4:20 a.m. I was surprised that I actually slept Saturday night. I remember the night before the 2007 New York City Marathon, I hardly slept. I got out of bed, trying my hardest to be quiet so my wife and daughter would not wake up. I took my race day stuff into the bathroom and started to get ready. I left my friend's house in Rockville around 5:10 a.m. and drove to the Twinbrook Metro station. When I pulled into the lot around 5:20 there were already a few cars parked in the lot. The Metro platform was not crowded but those that were there were clearly running MCM. I struck up a conversation on the train with an older woman who told me that she would be running her 62nd marathon.

I exited the Metro at Pentagon station around 6:15 began the hike to the runner's village. On the way, I couldn't help but to be in awe of the Washington Monument all lit up against the dark sky. This picture doesn't do the view justice but it was the best I could do with my cell phone.

After going through a security checkpoint where the Marines were inspecting our clear bags for any illegal items, I settled in at one of the tents in the runner's village. Around 7:15 I took my final pit stop and then headed over to the UPS trucks to drop off my bag. The Marine who took my bag said "Good Luck, Sir" and with that I headed over to starting corrals.

I was surprised how quickly I was able to cross the start line. Based on my chip and clock times, there is only a 2 - 3 minute difference. I waited at least 30 minutes last year in New York. I wanted to try and run with the 3:50 pacer but because of the crowds, it was not meant to be.

Before I go on, let me apologize in advance if I get the names of places or streets wrong. I am not from the D.C. Metro area and was not really paying attention to street signs.

The first memorable moment came around mile 4 when I hit Key Bridge and saw the spires of Georgetown University poking through the morning fog. As I made the turn onto Canal Rd., I saw the lead pack tearing up the course on the other side of the street. During training, I took gels every 6 miles, so I passed the water stop at mile 5 hoping there would be another one around mile 6 or 7. This was my first mistake. The next water stop did not come until mile 8. I sucked down a gel and some water and headed into Georgetown. At this point I looked at my Garmin and saw I was averaging 8:30/mile. I didn't think I'd be able maintain that pace for 26.2 so I decided to slow down to around a 8:40 - 8:45/mile pace. The atmosphere on M Street and Wisconsin Ave. was quite festive with lots of support from the crowd. I then ran past the Kennedy Center and began the approach to Hains Point. Even though I took a gel at mile 8, I wanted to stick to my every 6 miles plan so I took my next gel at mile 12 to get back on track.

Since this was my first MCM, I did not know what to expect in Hains Point. Everything I read described HP as this dreadful part of the course. I think that had to do with where HP was in the race. In previous MCMs, HP was in the latter parts of the race. This year, the race organizers made a change and we entered HP around mile 12. The crowd support was almost non-existant and there wasn't much going on in terms of scenery. I ran on knowing that the National Mall, with all of it's monuments and musuems, was just a mile or so away.

This is the part of the race I was looking forward to the most, and it did not dissappoint. The crowd around the Lincoln Memorial was great supportive. It was exactly what I needed after HP. I arranged before the race to look for my family around mile 17, which was at Ohio Drive SW and Buckeye Dr. When I ran by, I did not see them. I tried not to get disappointed and I took in the Washington Monument, the National Gallery, and the Capitol.
For future reference, I'm the one in the white shirt with red sleeves.
Photobucket Photobucket

I got to Mile 19 near the Air and Space Museum and guess what I started hearing? "THERE HE IS! THERE HE IS!" As I got closer I saw MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER. I stopped (probably for a little to long) for a kiss from both them and this picture:

It was exactly the mental boost that I needed knowing that the bridge, and the final 10K, were only a few minutes ahead. The Marine in background had a smile on his face as this was going on. As I started running again he gave me a big OORAH! Mile 20 was the beginning of the bridge crossing back into Virginia. For me, this part of the race was absolutely dreadful. The surface was uneven and it felt like I was, if a may borrow a phrase from campaign, "on a bridge to nowhere." At some point on the bridge a TNT (Team in Training) coach started running with a TNT runner. I heard him say "Just focus on you upper body. Move your arms and run tall. Don't worry about your legs are feeling." I tried to heed this advice myself, but at mile 21 things started to go downhill. My left foot started to tighten up pretty badly. I had to stop for a good 4-5 minutes to stretch it out. I took another look at my Garmin and saw that I had enough time in the bank that if I slowed my pace I could still finish in under 4 hours. I decided not push the pace but to enjoy the last 5.2 miles.

The last mile took us past where we started a little under 4 hours ago. As we past Mile 26, everyone saw what was coming next. The CRUEL uphill finish to the Iwo Jima Memorial. It wasn't a long climb, just 2 tenths of a mile, but it was steep with a hairpin turn thrown in for good measure. I saw the clock on top of the finishing chute read 3:57, I had done it! I hadn't looked at my Garmin to get my unofficial time but I knew I had it. I got my water, Powerade, food bag, and heat sheet from the Marines. Then came a moment that will stick with me for a while. A member of the U.S. Marine Corps put my finisher's medal
around my neck and said " Congratulations, Sir! Job well done!" I simply replied "Thank you for your service." I made my way over to the Iwo Jima Memorial to have my picture taken.

On the way to the family meet-up area, I picked my USAA commemorative coin. My wife and daughter were delayed a bit because of the crowds at Rosslyn Station. We finally met up and after some hugs, kisses, and this picture:


To wrap up the race here are my 5K splits and some other stats courtesy of the MCM website:

Overall: 3370/18281
Gender Place: 2664/11129
Division Place: 494/1994
Age Grade: 53.1%
5K: 26:49
10K: 53:30
15K: 1:20:47
20K: 1:47:36
Half: 1:53:49
25K: 2:14:24
30K: 2:42:58
35K: 3:11:53
40K: 3:42:02
Finish: 3:55:08

We got on a very long line to board a Metro at Rosslyn Station. After about an hour we finally got on a crowded Orange Line train. On the way to Metro Center I struck up a conversation with a finisher who was active military. He told me that he ran a satellite marathon in Fallujah last year. Something about that really humbled me. Military life is so foreign to me. I simply thanked him for his service.

We finally got back to Twinbrook Station around 2:40 p.m., drove back our friend's house, said goodbye, packed up the car and started the drive back to New Jersey around 4:30. The trip home took a lot longer than the usual 4 hours. There was construction on I-95 in Maryland, and 2 accidents on the NJ Turnpike. While in the car, I massaged my quads and calves with The Stick. It really helped because my legs were not as sore the next day. We also stoped at a bunch of rest stops so I could get out of the car and walk around. Every rest stop we stopped at, it was easy to pick out other MCMers who were doing the same thing. Some, including me, had their medals around their necks others were wearing running clothes and stretching. We all offered congratulations to each other. We finally made it home around 10:00 p.m.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my 3:55:08 was a PR besting my 4:21:57 at the 2007 New York City Marathon!

1 comment:

DailyRunner said...

Ooorah! I'm hoping to replicate your feat of beating goal time this Sunday.